Haddad: May 14, 1988 — the day 27 people were killed by a single drunk driver
May 14, 1988, marks the anniversary of the Carrollton bus crash that killed 27 people when a drunk driver went the wrong way down Interstate 71 and struck a church bus. Twenty-four of the victims were children.
The head-on collision in Carroll County, Kentucky, was the deadliest incident involving drunk driving and the third-deadliest bus crash in United States history.
The impaired driver, Larry Mahoney, was convicted of 27 counts of manslaughter and served 10 years in prison. To this day, he says he remembers nothing about the crash.
As the parents, spouses and siblings pressed through the heartache and pain of the disaster, several family members of victims became active leaders of the nonprofit group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
MADD had been formed eight years earlier on Sept. 5, 1980, in California by Candace Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver. The 46-year-old man, Clarence William Busch, left Cari’s body at the scene. The young girl’s death marked his fifth arrest for drunk driving. Busch served 2.5 years for intoxicated manslaughter.
Today, 33 years after the Carrollton bus collision, survivors ask if enough has been done.
Much has changed, thanks to the efforts of MADD and other nonprofit agencies and their supporters (which should be all of us). The most notable change was the lowering of legal blood-alcohol levels, first on a state-by-state basis, then by 2004, a 0.08 blood-alcohol limit was adopted in all 50 states.
The number of deaths from drunk drivers has also fallen sharply, from more than 18,000 alcohol-related driving fatalities in 1988 to more than 10,000 in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA).
But that’s not enough.
Every day, about 28 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes — that’s one person every 52 minutes. These deaths were all preventable.
MADD believes the number should be zero.
Zero fathers who aren’t there for bedtime.
Zero mothers who miss the first day of kindergarten.
Zero sons and daughters who never come home.
In 2006, MADD launched a campaign to eliminate drunk driving called “No More Victims.” The effort focuses on four steps that can be taken today to stop drunk driving tomorrow. They are:
1 - High-Visibility Law Enforcement
When people think they’ll be caught, they’re less likely to drive after drinking. That’s why MADD supports high-visibility law enforcement efforts. This includes sobriety checkpoints, which can reduce drunk driving deaths by 20%.
2 - Ignition Interlocks
Ignition interlocks, or in-car breathalyzers, force offenders to provide a sober breath sample before operating their vehicles. MADD has successfully pushed for laws requiring these devices for drunk driving offenders in 33 states. But research shows that if adopted nationwide, an additional 1,000 lives could be saved each year.
3- Advanced Vehicle Technology
Breath or touch sensors can prevent a drunk driver from operating their vehicle. Autonomous vehicle technologies have the potential to eliminate many types of roadway fatalities, including drunk driving. Technology holds the key to unlocking a future of No More Victims.
4 - Public Support
Thanks to non-drinking designated drivers, taxis, public transportation and ride sharing apps, there’s no excuse to drive drunk. Take personal responsibility for keeping our shared roadways safe by planning ahead to get home safely if your night includes alcohol.
The groundswell of public support that emerged following the Carrollton bus crash helped transform MADD into a national movement, a movement that has saved countless lives.
If you’d like to be part of this effort, here are some things MADD suggests:
• Make a designated driver a key component of a night out that includes alcohol.
• Tell people that you don’t believe drunk driving is acceptable.
• Encourage your friends and family members to plan ahead to have a safe ride home.
• Tell your stories about how drunk driving impacts you and everyone in this country.
And perhaps most importantly, if you know or suspect someone is driving intoxicated, report them.
HOW TO REPORT A DRUNK DRIVER
Locally, you can report suspected impaired drivers by calling one of these numbers:
-Prescott Police, 928-445-3131
-Prescott Valley Police, 928-772-9267
-Chino Valley Police, 928-771-3260 (Handled by YCSO dispatch)
-Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, 928-771-3260
-Arizona Department of Public Safety, 928-773-3600
If you see a life-threatening situation involving imminent danger, call 911.
Dispatchers recommend you put these local numbers in your phone’s contacts. They also recommended that parents place them in their children’s phones.
If you call, provide a description of the vehicle, know what street you are on and the direction of travel, and if possible, get the license plate number and stay on the line with the dispatcher.
To learn more about MADD, the “No More Victims” campaign and how you can get involved, visit madd.org.
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